Lambie simply superb

2013-04-06 00:00

A HEROIC second-half showing, and the impeccable goal-kicking of flyhalf Pat Lambie, secured the Sharks the most unlikely of Super Rugby victories as they downed the Crusaders 21-17 at King’s Park last night.

The Sharks, after a poor first half, were flattered by the scoreline at the break as they only trailed 9-11 against a patently stronger team. But they lifted their intensity in the second half, making the tackles which they missed in the first, and Lambie booted them home with seven penalties in seven attempts.

In contrast, Crusaders flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal missed four kicks at goal, including two long-range efforts in the last 10 minutes that would have given the New Zealanders a 20-18 lead. But, finally, it was Lambie who kicked his final penalty with five minutes remaining to seal a crucial home victory.

It was the first win by the Sharks over the Crusaders since 2007, and only their fourth in 16 outings over the seven-time champions, and it has secured them third place on the combined log behind the Chiefs and Brumbies.

Coach John Plumtree was critical of the Sharks’ first-half defence, which saw them let go too many first-time tackles and scrambling to restrict the Crusaders to only one try.

The Sharks defence and lineout improved dramatically in the second half, with young forwards Pieter-Steph du Toit, man-of-the-match Kyle Cooper and Marcell Coetzee carrying the ball effectively. “We had to up our intensity in the second half and we did that, winning the collisions,” said Plumtree.

Crusaders captain George Whitelock had another take on the result.

“We were our own worst enemies in the second half, making far too many errors in our own half. It really was disappointing that we were not able to finish what we had started.”

Sharks captain Keegan Daniel praised the character of his players, who somehow changed the mood and flow after a one-sided first half.

“It was a struggle in the first half, but we found our structure in defence in the second half, put the Crusaders under pressure and then turned that into points.”

The Sharks started and ended the first half with a flourish but the Crusaders dominated territory and possession in the 35 minutes in between. Their excellent ball retention and tall line­out kept the Sharks under pressure for most of the half and the Sharks were relieved to only leak one try as they slipped tackles and were slow to close down attacks.

Plumtree will not be happy that the try came from a simple set piece move on the halfway line with the powerful, influential centre Robbie Fruean easily handing off opposite Paul Jordaan to fashion the overlap for scrumhalf Andy Ellis to score.

Lambie landed a superb 50-metre penalty on the half-time hooter and then won the second-half penalty duel four to two as the Sharks tightened their set piece and came to life both on attack and defence.

JP Pietersen was busy and involved on the wing while centre Meyer Bosman and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach were also influential.

Crusaders flyhalf Blydendaal, behind his advancing forwards, had an armchair ride in the first half, running Sharks fullback Frans Steyn around the field with his tactical kicks and releasing his backs into space. But he was placed under pressure in the second half and time and again his backs were halted behind the advantage line by the swarming Sharks defenders.

But it was not all beer and skittles for the Sharks. First-choice fullback Louis Ludik has had to undergo shoulder surgery and will be sidelined for two to three months, flank Jacques Botes left the field after 17 minutes with a suspected broken arm and wing Odwa Ndungane strained a hamstring.

What is also of concern is Frans Steyn’s continued poor form ahead of the Stormers game at Newlands next Saturday.


Sharks: Penalties: Lambie (7). Crusaders: Try: Andy Ellis. Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal (4).

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